late during thursday night's game from shea one of the espn cameras captured jeff suppan on the bench, looking stoic in the face of the sweep. made me feel bad for him; he deserves better than this, i reflected. then i went on to ponder why this guy never incurs the wrath of cardinal fans, despite frequent stretches of terrible pitching. we've questioned mulder's manhood and marquis' sanity this year, mocked ponson's gut and weaver's mullet; but supps has had a free pass, even though he carried a 5.83 era into the all-star break. perhaps the two series clinchers in the 2004 playoffs earned him lifetime immunity; or maybe it's simply that we never expect much outta supps and therefore aren't put off when he fails. some will say that supps isn't as maddeningly inconsistent as marquis and mulder, but that's not really true; per baseball prospectus' FLAKE (which measures start-to-start variability), suppan is just as unpredictable as his rotationmates.
but he was a rock of stability last night, on a night the cardinals desperately needed one. he has given the team 5 quality starts in 8 post-all-star-break outings and owns a post-break era of 2.72; without question, he's the #2 behind carpenter at this moment.
baseball is a lot more fun to watch when it's well-pitched, eh?
bernie quantified the awfulness of the cardinals' starting pitchers this morning and asked roughly the same question david pinto asked at baseball musings yesterday, viz.: how will the cardinal pitchers ever get anyone out against a top-notch playoff offense? i got curious enough to run a quick-n-dirty survey, broke out the cardinals' performance against the top 6 offenses in the nl --- ie, the mets phillies braves dodgers reds and diamondbacks. here's how their overall line compares to their line vs those teams:
|vs top 6
that's not a disastrous dropoff; main difference is that they give up more homers, which is not surprising but also not very comforting. i should also add that the cards' extraordinary success vs the dodgers (they held la to a 1.04 era over 7 games this year) prettifies the "top 6" numbers considerably; the reds mets and phillies (at least two of which probably will make the playoffs) all have hung more than 5 runs a game on the cardinal staff. on the other side of the argument, the above numbers do not isolate the performance of the starting pitchers; they include innings pitched by guys who'll be buried at the end of the bullpen bench during the playoffs. carpenter has pitched well vs these teams in 2006 (sub-3.00 era); if one other starter can step up in the playoffs (assuming the cardinals get there), these numbers won't mean a whole lot.
but let's bull forward anyway. the three best hitting teams the cardinals have faced this year play in the al central -- detroit, chisox, and cleveland. obviously, the picture dims when you add in their numbers vs those teams:
again, i'm not drawing any sweeping conclusions from these data; it's a lazy man's study. but i also wouldn't dismiss the numbers altogether. they do nothing to dispel the common wisdom --- viz., that the st louis rotation is particularly vulnerable vs good-hitting teams. indeed, nothing will dispel that impression except more frequent starts like last night's.
perhaps no pitcher in the organization has been more reliably good than trey hearne of quad cities. last night he won his 12th game and lowered his era on the year to 2.20. quad cities has advanced two starting pitchers to palm beach this year, jaime garcia and cory meachem, and both have fared pretty well there; hearne will have to wait till 2007 to test himself at high A. but i for one am looking forward to seeing how he fares. as hearne told us himself, he doesn't have overpowering stuff; despite his stellar results, he remains a longshot to reach the big leagues. but stellar results gotta count for something, even if a guy only hits 86 on the gun.